For fans who can’t wait for the breaks between The Walking Dead seasons and when 16 episodes just aren’t enough, there’s finally more Walking Dead. Fear the Walking Dead premieres Sunday, August 23 at 9 on AMC. Set at the beginning of the zombie outbreak, Fear focuses on a few Los Angeles families far away from the survivors in Georgia.
You can check out our spoiler-free review of the first episode here. And don’t miss our weekly Fear the Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell:
When the cast met with the Television Critics Association last month, we got to participate in some roundtable interviews with them. Elizabeth Rodriguez plays Liza Ortiz, the ex-wife of Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) with whom she has a son, Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie). Rodriguez was enthusiastic to share her stories of working on the newest addition to the Walking Dead family.
Have you enjoyed getting into survival mode for Fear the Walking Dead?
I think what’s interesting about the journey is that we think we can be prepared. We can only fantasize about what we would do. And you take for granted that you would have communication or electricity or food or even know what’s going on in the outside world, particularly now with the kind of social media we have. The fact that these things we don’t think about. The fact that we don’t know if it’s contained. We don’t know how far spread it is. You assume that the government’s going to take care of it. You can only connect it to natural disasters, especially in America, more so than terrorism or ISIS. That’s where you go to when you think of these things.
For me, it made me think of the day to day of people that survived these things in the world since the beginning of time. How do they have those days just to sort of feed their children, not get into fights, just have the basics? And how quickly is it that we go from having everything and taking everything for granted, to having almost nothing?
How did you connect with the character of Liza?
For me, I feel like what I connected with her, she’s a strong woman. I’m not a mother, but I’m very nurturing and I’m [playing] a nursing student. When I did research as to what qualifications one needs and everything that goes into just prerequisites to go into nursing school, there were more than I would do. But I realized that having empathy and being sensitive were qualities that are really great for being a nurse, and I have those. And because I also was playing a mother, the guy that plays my son is really easy to love him and have that mother thing for him.
I think she’s also no B.S. and I have that quality too. I’m sort of a straight shooter. So I was excited to play her. I found that she was a really amazing, strong, independent woman. Also, the fact that I found out that Travis didn’t leave her, that it was a choice that Liza made, was a breath of fresh air because it was like, oh, she’s not a victim. She’s not just a scorned woman. So that’s not something that’s part of it. She’s just felt really independent and a single mother that was burning the candle on both sides and making things happen.
Do you think this crisis could actually bring her and Travis closer together again, even though he’s with Madison now?
I think the things about being with someone and knowing someone so well is that the things you love about them, you always will. The things that drive you crazy will always drive you crazy about them. I think that happens in this storyline so far. Absolutely. We’re parents first of Christopher. So we’re there for each other in that way. I also have incredible empathy for Madison and the relationship she’s having with her children as a mother. I think what happens is, you know someone, so you go right back to the dynamics you always had. We’ve been in each other’s lives in the three years we haven’t been together as well. So I think we’re really honest with each other and pretty good parents. So I think it’s a pretty healthy relationship for the most part.
This show is about the beginning of the zombie outbreak, but do you get to see any gory makeup effects?
There are moments of things that were gruesome. While you’re shooting it, or when you first see it, you’re like, “Oh, that’s so gnarly!” But then I go straight into broad comedy. So I’ll go over to something and want to kiss it. Just sort of like to really break anything that might be stuck in my conscious of it. There are things that happen in the second episode where you go home after doing a seventeen hour day of that where you have to take a shower because this happens every day.
As a human being, you can’t not connect to the chaos that exists around the world on a day to day, or things that you’ve seen on the news just here domestically. Where you’re just like, “Oh, this was so real.” There’s no way for your body emotionally not to know that it’s not real, until you have to really heal yourself from those experiences.
Did you have to learn any new skills for the role?
I had to learn, but Liza learns, how to do all these medical things. Like, it wasn’t real, it was still way too much gore. Way too much blood. I was like, yeah, I knew I wasn’t good with blood, but doing medical things and seeing special effects of bones sticking out of people. It was traumatic. And you’re like, “this is not my career.” I will never be a nurse or a medical professional. I thank that there are people that can deal with all of it. I would have fainted. And so there was a lot there that I had to act like I knew what I was doing and play as if I was comfortable with that world.
Does doing a show like this make you look at strange things that you see out of the corner of your eye more or less?
For me, it does absolutely. Especially when we were shooting in Vancouver. There’s a whole area where they have a lot of homeless people because they’ve closed down allthese mental institutions. I couldn’t walk through there without being like, “All these people right here could be walkers.”
Everything about it felt like an apocalypse. The way they live. The energy. My brain was like, “They could all be infected.” I feel like so much goes on in the world between disease, pandemics, terrorism, ISIS, that there is no way. It’s around us every second of the day.
There’s absolutely an intrigue. How can there not be? Whether this is a genre or not, it is looking into a microscope. The theme, the sense of, what’s in the air? What’s in the air every second? Whether we turn on the TV or not. With constant random shooters. With police brutality. I don’t watch the news because I wouldn’t leave the house. I would not leave the house. There’s not much difference if you look at that and go from channel, channel, channel, to the world we’re living in, other than the fact that [Walkers] eat people and they walk, and we named them something else. Emotionally, I think it’s the same thing. It’s the same amount of trauma, anxiety, and fear of the world.
Being from L.A., how do you feel L.A. is represented on Fear the Walking Dead?
I’m bicoastal, but how many of us have ever been to El Sereno? So I feel way more connected to Los Angeles than Angelinos. The farthest you go, you go to Echo Park. Everyone I know, whether they’re actors or not, go no further than Echo Park and Venice. That’s their scope, that’s it. Some people have not even gotten out of Burbank. They don’t know what the day to day of people that were born and raised here, generations of multi-ethnic, working class Angelinos are. Almost no one I know. I’ve been bicoastal for a decade. Have you been to El Sereno?
No, but I’ve been further than Burbank and Venice.
My boyfriend was born and raised here. But there are just places, you know, unless you’re going for family or something. [Series creator Dave Erickson] wanted to work in El Sereno because the school there, he would play football. It was so important to him to find a lot of these locations and bring them into this world and bring that part of his LA to the world.
Even though you come with The Walking Dead name, are you able to feel like Fear is your own show?
It feels like it’s very much our own. The producers and creators were very much clear that that was it. When we were at Comic-Con and met the wonderful, gracious cast of The Walking Dead, they were so gracious and excited. They had heard about us and were willing to just talk us through what Comic-Con was going to bring, and they were really excited about what this was. They didn’t walk in, like, looking down at their noses like, “Oh, what are you doing? We were the original.” It was so wonderful to have that be what they brought to us. It was very giving and generous. Everyone’s been very generous that way.